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BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto; SULKHAN TSINTSADZE: Six Miniatures – Lisa Batiashvili, violin/ German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen/ Georgian Chamber Orchestra – Sony/BMG
One of the best readings of the Beethoven I have ever heard.
Published on March 18, 2009

BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto; SULKHAN TSINTSADZE: Six Miniatures – Lisa Batiashvili, violin/ German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen/ Georgian Chamber Orchestra – Sony/BMG 88697334002, 56:35 *****: Lisa Batiashvili’s first album, with the Sibelius and Lindberg concertos, struck me more for the quality of the latter than the ebullience of the former. That’s not to say that her Sibelius was in any way bad, just not up to the considerable snuff of artists like Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg or Anne-Sophie Mutter, let alone the older recordings of greats like Oistrakh. So what do we get from the 26-year old mother of two this time around? No less than the touchstone of the literature, the highly exposed and structurally delicate Beethoven concerto, recorded by everyone everywhere and a standard with umpteen classic recordings. To my great surprise—and I cannot express this fervently enough—she comes through with a blazingly beautiful reading that launches itself into the very highest of elite recordings. Her high notes are exquisite, and the fact that she directs this reading makes it only more significant as the phrasing and enormously proficient sense of line are those of a seasoned conductor, not a young violinist directing while playing. For sure, the German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen, as evidenced by its ongoing series of Beethoven symphonies with Paavo Jarvi, has an innate feeling for the composer; but that only partly explains the excellence of the orchestral execution vis-à-vis the “contrary” interactions of the violin. This is an integrated and well-thought out reading of mature and considered reflection, proving that youth need be no deterrent to considered performance artistry. Though a chamber orchestra, the sound is basically full and fully realized. I particularly like the rather pungent timpani, and if there is any thing to complain about it would be the rather weak bass line, more heard than felt. Ever since I was first astonished by this concerto in the reading of Isaac Stern and Leonard Bernstein many years ago, I have developed a profound love for it. Joseph Suk, Kyung-Wha Chung, and Anne-Sophie Mutter have added their own discoveries, but none of these outdoes the young Batiashvili on this recording. Truly an astounding effort. The remainder of the program is taken up by a return to Batiashvili’s Georgian roots. Here she presents an arrangement of six of the 15 “Miniatures” by Sulkhan Tsintsadze (1925-1991), a popular Georgian composer who played cello in the Georgian State String Quartet. These transcriptions mimic traditional Georgian instruments and present this folk music with flair and bravura, making a nice foil for the Beethoven, which is presented last on this program. I am rarely as thrilled with a new artist as on this recording. I only hope Sony is able to keep her—their track record with new young females is pretty dismal (look at Hilary Hahn and Lara St. John)—and a long term commitment from the company would serve them and us very well. -- Steven Ritter